Where the Favela Meets the Forest: Urban Ecosystem-Based Adaptation as a boundary object for Brazilian Sustainability Science

Project: Research

Project Details


The earth's climate is changing and poor people in cities in the Global South, often living in informal settlements or "slums," are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts such as flooding, landslides, heat stress and water scarcity. For this group, climate adaptation is closely intertwined with the everyday struggle for functioning infrastructure (e.g., for water provision, garbage disposal and sewage) and access to affordable housing. Despite this, we know little about how climate adaptation in rapidly urbanising environments interacts with other urban development processes and interests – such as environmental protection, poverty reduction and urban marketing. Many see approaches based in nature and ecosystems, so-called ecosystem-based adaptation, as a promising strategy to help people and cities adapt to dangerous climate impacts. However, in this growing literature, there are several critical gaps, including consideration of vulnerable groups, case studies from cities in the Global South and interdisciplinary integration of relevant knowledge.

Against this background, this project focuses on science–policy processes around climate adaptation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It explores uEbA as an arena for interaction and knowledge exchange within and between three important levels: local residents of informal communities ("favelas"), policy and planning processes in the city of Rio de Janeiro, and actors, concepts and scientific disciplines engaged in the topic. Rio de Janeiro is used as a critical case for urban ecosystem-based adaptation, as the city is a hotspot for both biodiversity and urban climate risk, as well as a stronghold for an emerging Brazilian sustainability science.
Short titleWhere the Favela Meets the Forest
Effective start/end date2019/11/012022/10/31

Collaborative partners

UKÄ subject classification

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Ecology


  • climate adaptation
  • climate change adaptation
  • Ecosystem-based Adaptation
  • favelas
  • Brazil
  • human-nature relations
  • informal settlements
  • Sustainability Science
  • boundary object